Keith Mpata

Last summer, one of the catechists from Mbuma, Mr Keith Mpata, was visiting the Netherlands. On 16 July he gave a lecture in Capelle aan den IJssel. He also gave an interesting insight into his work as a catechist. For the readers of the Mbumablad, here is the speech in two episodes.

Dear Mbuma friends,

Greetings to you all beloved friends of Mbuma. I would like to thank you very much for welcoming me warmly into your midst and for giving me this opportunity to share with you information on the activity of Mbuma Mission Hospital as it concerns the spread of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In Matthew 28:19-20 the Lord Jesus gave this command to His Disciples “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost…” and in the gracious Providence of God, the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ reached the nation of Zimbabwe and in particular, the Province of Matabeleland North also known as Nkayi District – as this is where Mbuma Mission Hospital is located.

I will give little information concerning myself as I do not wish for the focus of this presentation to be about me, but for us all to pay careful attention at this time and to be moved to a greater interest in Mbuma Mission Hospital and the work of the Gospel. My name is Keith Mpata, I am 25 years old and by the Providence of the Almighty God – I was graciously drawn to the saving Gospel message preached by the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland in the year 2012. Immediately after having been convinced and drawn in my soul to the gracious Gospel truth of the forgiveness of sins freely offered in Christ, I started to attend to the services and in due time became a full member of the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland in the Bulawayo congregation which is being Pastored by Reverend. S. Khumalo, a man whom I love dearly and who is a father to me in the Gospel, as Paul was to Timothy. Progressively, I was led to the work of being an Evangelist at Mbuma Mission Hospital and I have been working there since 1 October 2018. I can only think back to the words of the Apostle Paul as he wrote to the Ephesians and say (Ephesians 3:7-8) “Whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of his power. Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ…” I am thankful to the Lord to be able to be used by Him for His Glory at Mbuma. Very thankful. 

For the sake of structure in my presentation to you, so that it will be easier for us all to follow as well as to understand – I will divide my presentation to you into 3 Parts:

  1. The daily structure of the work of an Evangelist at Mbuma.
  2. The blessings and challenges experienced in the mission field.
  3. Concluding remarks.
  1. The daily structure of the work of an Evangelist at Mbuma.

In Psalm 5 vs 3 the Psalmist says “My voice shalt thou hear in the morning, O LORD; in the morning will I direct my prayer unto thee, and will look up,” and so we begin each day every morning with worship which starts at 7:15am, and end each day every late afternoon with worship at 4:15pm. Worship is led by the catechists and the normal structure is that of first singing a Psalm, then a Bible reading which is then followed by prayer and lastly a concluding Psalm. Thankfully, the catechists are at liberty as to the content of the worship meeting as at times instead of only Bible reading there can be a short dialogue on the Bible passage which was read with those presently gathered, and this gives the catechist an opportunity to teach, in particular the many people who come to the Hospital for medical assistance the truths of the Word of God and to also answer directly some questions villagers passing through the hospital may have concerning God and His Word. At other times instead of a dialogue and Bible reading, the Catechist can also give a short address which  can be between 15 and 25 minutes; preaching Christ to a majority of villagers who would be hearing the Gospel message for the first time in their lives. It touches the heart to think that people who would have come from afar seeking for medicine for the body are by God’s grace pointed to the spiritual medicine for the soul made sick by sin – the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Word of God again tells us in Colossians 3:16 to “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.” The work environment can at times be a stressful one, more-so at Mbuma where many people from all over the country flock to the hospital seeking the best medical attention therefore it is necessary for the staff at Mbuma to receive spiritual strength and wisdom from the Word of God through studying the Scriptures. Thus there is a Bible class for every section of the Hospital; on Monday (as well as Friday) at 9am there is the Antenatal Bible class, on Tuesday at 3:30pm is the domestic worker’s Bible class, on Wednesday at 8:15am is the nurse aides Bible class, on Thursday 5pm is the Management Bible class, on Friday 7:45am is the men’s (male field workers) Bible class, on Saturday 8:15am there is the Qualified Staff (nurses) Bible class, on the Lord’s Day there is the open Bible class for everyone in the Hospital without distinction which is at 3:30pm. All these Bible classes are led by the Catechist and each class studies a different book of the Bible, therefore I think you can all see how much grace is needed for a catechist to perform his duties as he needs the help of the Holy Spirit to be able to teach faithfully and clearly all these Bible classes – help which can only be accessed by prayer, and a lot of study preparation is needed so that the Catechist has full knowledge.

In Luke 23 vs 41 we hear the thief on the cross confessing his guilt and saying “And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss.” In vs 42 he then makes this request “And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.” And the Lord Jesus in vs 43 gives him this precious promise “And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.” The reason why I bring up this text is because like the thief on the cross who was about to die and by God’s grace received the Word of Salvation from Christ that saved his soul, we also at Mbuma have many sick people and many that are on their death beds who are about to die and yet are in need of the Word of Salvation from the Lord Jesus; therefore part of our duty as catechists is to evangelize personally the sick on their death beds and share with them the truth about salvation in Jesus Christ that by faith in Him alone the repentant sinner receives the forgiveness of sins. So the catechist visits every patient going from bed to bed and tries to develop a personal relationship with each of the sick patients and through personal conversations, Bible reading and prayer – point the sick individual to Christ. At times the catechist may not be fully aware of some of the new patients who would have arrived in the hospital or of some special cases, thus we work hand in hand with the nursing staff who notify us on new patients and special cases. Dr. Snoek who has been used mightily by the Lord at Mbuma makes sure to know all the physical problems of her patients but at the same time to know their spiritual condition thus whenever she is concerned about an unbelieving patient who has a terminal illness is about to die – she always without fail comes to the office of the catechists and shares her concern with us as well as make the request for one of us to give pastoral counselling to the individual and share the Gospel.

In Acts 8 vs 4-5 we read these words, “Therefore they that were scattered abroad went everywhere preaching the word. Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them.” The catechist like Philip the evangelist is also involved in the great work of preaching the Gospel in the congregations of Mbuma. I am sure some and perhaps all of you are aware of the many deaths we have experienced throughout our congregations at Mbuma, the death of many elders and perhaps most notably, the sudden death of our beloved Minister Rev. Sibanda. This has resulted in a decrease of preachers and has made it more necessary for the catechists to work much more closely with the remaining Elders of the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland of the Mbuma congregations in supplying preaching to the congregations. Catechists preach at the Thursday prayer meeting service interchangeably with the Elders, and can preach up to 3 times on the Lord’s Day at different congregations. When I have been made aware of the possibility of preaching on the Thursday prayer meeting as well as the preaching stations I may supply on the Lord’s Day, I devote a lot of time to prayer and studying as a means to preparation. My study days are Wednesday for the Thursday Prayer meeting and Saturday for the Lord’s Day services, but every evening of the week except the Lord’s Day is devoted to studying for both the Bible classes and sermons. “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”-2nd Timothy 2:15

The work of the catechist is not only limited to inside the hospital but is also outside the hospital in the villages surrounding Mbuma. When the nurses at Mbuma are deployed to go into different parts of the villages to dispense medication to the locals who are furthest away from the hospital – the catechist accompanies them and conducts worship with the group that is gathered as well as to give an address from the word of God which points the villagers to Christ who is medicine for the soul. The catechist also at other times engages in a dialogue with the local community to expose the evil of ancestral worship which is so common in the rural community – and point to the true Saviour the Lord Jesus Christ which is exactly what the Apostle Paul would do as we read in Acts 17 vs 2-3 “And Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them, and three sabbath days reasoned with them out of the scriptures, Opening and alleging, that Christ must needs have suffered, and risen again from the dead; and that this Jesus, whom I preach unto you, is Christ.” This work of going into the villages and confronting the kingdom of Satan with the Gospel of Christ is a challenge and yet has been greatly blessed over the past years as it has been carried out by my colleagues Mr. G. Nkiwane and Mr. S. Ncube.